Just as we start to pick up speed with the Twins, the prospect preview train comes grinding to a halt with a mediocre Orioles system. I think the horse from Ren and Stimpy said it best – no sir…I don’t like it. I skipped many a Sunday morning church service in favor of watching new episodes of R&S. I seem to be no worse for wear, except that when my kids ask me about their faith I usually dodge the question by offering to sell them some rubber nipples. With just two (questionable) Grade A prospects, this is the rubber nipple of minor league systems. I’m about to do my best to sell it.
1. Yusniel Diaz, OF | Age: 22 | ETA: 2019
Diaz was arguably the best piece in the return for Manny Machado last year. He’s close to the majors which means he could have some redraft value. His floor is also relatively high after playing pro ball in Cuba and demonstrating average or better tools across the board. He’s not elite, but a guy who can hit .280 with 15/15 potential is useful in fantasy. He posted an outstanding 14% walk rate and 16% strikeout rate in 2018.
2. Ryan Mountcastle, 3B | Age: 21 | ETA: 2019
Like Diaz, Mountcastle is also likely to see the majors this season. He has a little more pop but a little less speed. His defense (particularly his arm) will probably result in a shift from third to another position further down the spectrum. He had some success with the bat in 2018 – hitting .297 with 13 homers for Double-A Bowie. If he gets to all of his raw power in games, he could see some 20-25 homer seasons, but that’s a decent-sized ‘if’ when we’re talking specs.
3. Jean Carlos Encarnacion, 3B | Age: 20 | ETA: 2021
This is an aggressive ranking based mainly on Encarnacion’s projectability and upside. Detractors will be quick to point out his 27% strikeout rate in 2018, but I’m more focused on his balanced offensive tools and a plus arm that should keep him at the hot corner long term. He can hit and hit for power, and will even chip in a handful of steals. He came over from the Braves in the Kevin Gausman trade, and I’m betting he’s the Orioles’ long term answer at third.
4. Ryan McKenna, OF | Age: 21 | ETA: 2020
McKenna is your typical center field/leadoff hitter profile. He has plus speed and defensive tools and an above-average hit tool. His soft spot is power, but he did hit 11 dingers in 2018. I see an everyday player here with the potential to impact runs, steals, and batting average as a table setter. McKenna hit .315 across two levels last season with a pretty 12% walk rate.
5. DL Hall, LHP | Age: 20 | ETA: 2020
Hall sports a nice fastball/curveball combination that should lead to some strikeouts as a mid-rotation starter. He threw 94 innings for Delmarva in the Sally last year and struck out about ten per nine. I doubt he develops into a fantasy ace, but he has the most upside in this system outside of maybe Hunter Harvey – who’s too risky for my taste.
6. Austin Hays, OF | Age: 23 | ETA: 2019
Hays struggled with the bat in 2018, hitting just .242 in 273 at bats for Double-A Bowie. He did manage 12 homers and a half dozen steals though. The upside is limited offensively, but he’s an above-average defender which could help him carve out a role in the outfield. He’s likely waiver fodder in standard leagues with more value in deeper formats.
7. Grayson Rodriguez, RHP | Age: 19 | ETA: 2023
Rodriguez was selected in the first round of the 2018 draft. He’s more of a long-term project, but the fastball is already a plus pitch, and he pairs it with a slider that has plus potential. He demonstrated decent control in his pro debut and struck out a little over a batter per inning. My guess is he’ll appear somewhere in the back half of the 2019 first year player top 50. Like most high school arms, there’s a fair amount of risk built into the profile.
8. Brett Cumberland, C | Age: 23 | ETA: 2019
Cumberland might get dinged on traditional lists for suspicious defense behind the plate, but he’s the offense-first catcher profile that actually plays well in fantasy leagues. He’s also close to the bigs and could see some late season redraft value in deeper formats. There’s zippo in the speed department, but there’s the potential for 15-20 homers with a decent average once (if) he becomes a primary backstop. He was another piece in the Gausman trade with Atlanta.
9. Jean Carmona, SS | Age: 19 | ETA: 2022
Another long-term project, Carmona struggled this past season – hitting just .234 across two levels with a 26% strikeout rate. Still, the switch-hitting shortstop projects as average or above-average in both power and speed, and he has the defensive chops to stick on the left side of the dirt. These are the types of players I like to target in deep dynasty leagues, especially if I sniff an opportunity to buy low.
10. Luis Ortiz, RHP | Age: 23 | ETA: 2019
Ortiz should be much higher on your list if you are in need of pitching for this year. He has already had a cup of coffee and is likely one of the first prospects to get the call if a spot opens up. He has a plus heater and slider, but lacks the strikeout stuff to rank higher for me. If everything clicks he can max out as a 3/4 starter, but more likely he’s a back-end rotation/relief arm.